British political leaders call for an International Tribunal to investigate Sri Lanka’s genocide
At the Mullivaikal Genocide (Sri Lanka) Remembrance Day 2018 held at the Hyde Park, London on the 18th of May 2018, organised by the British Tamils Forum, several British politicians called for setting up of an international tribunal to investigate the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka and imposing economic sanctions against the state.
During the war that ended in May 2009, around 430,000 Tamil people had taken refuge in Sri Lankan State declared safe zones in Mullivaikkal a coastal village bordering the Bay of Bengal in the North Eastern part of the island of Sri Lanka. Having deceived and corralled the people into a narrow slither of land by designating it as a “no fire zone” the state pounced them with heavy artillery from land sea and air, mercilessly massacring them. At the end of this massacre only 282000 escaped alive with nearly 147,000 unaccounted for.
The UN Panel Report on Sri Lanka (UN POE) in 2010 estimated that more than 40,000 civilians were killed during just the final stages of the conflict by the Sri Lankan armed forces in 2009. The three-member UN panel found credible allegations that comprise five core categories of potential serious violations of international law, committed by the Government of Sri Lanka in the final stages of the conflict, including killing of civilians through widespread shelling and the denial of humanitarian assistance.
In 2012 March, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution urging Sri Lanka to investigate its own alleged abuses during the final phase of war. To date no investigations have been carried out to find out the truth about these killings. Many of the Tamils worldwide lost their kith and kin in this genocide. Hence Mullivaikkal massacre created a collective trauma in the mind of the Tamil community. Every year this day is commemorated by the global Tamil community as the Mullivaikkal genocide Remembrance Day.
On his Tamil remembrance day message to the British Tamils, UK’s opposition leader and leader of the Labour party Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn, called for a setting up of an international tribunal to investigate the crimes against the Tamils in Sri Lanka. He also called for economic sanctions and ban on armed sales to Sri Lanka based on the noncompliance of human rights resolution 30/1 by Sri Lanka. This call resonates with the recent request made by the UN Human rights commissioner Mr. Hussain Zeid at the last UNHRC meeting in Geneva. UN Human rights Commissioner urged the Human Rights Council to continue to play a critical role in encouraging progress in accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka and called on Member States to explore other avenues, including the application of universal jurisdiction, that could foster accountability.
This call for the setting up of an international tribunal on Sri Lanka based on resolution 30/1, has been repeated by the Chief minister of Northern province Mr. C. Vigneswaran on his Remembrance Day speech in Mullivaikkal, Sri Lanka.
On his Remembrance Day message Rt Hon John McDonnell MP, shadow chancellor, assured the Tamils that Labour party in opposition and when in government will use every avenue available internationally and domestically to seek justice to the Tamils in Sri Lanka. He assured that Labour party will not stand by while the injustices on Tamils are ongoing in Sri Lanka.
Following British politicians send in the messages which stressed on the need to fully implement the UNHRC resolution 30/1 immediately.
Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP (Eastham), Executive Member of APPGT
“My thoughts are especially with all those who are mourning people who died in the terrible events of nine years ago, and with those who still don’t know what became of loved ones who disappeared at that time. Reporting in February on the situation in Sri Lanka, the UN Human Rights Commissioner pointed out that progress with commitments previously made by the Sri Lankan Government ‘has been virtually stalled for more than a year’, and that allegations of torture have been rife. The British Government has a particular responsibility here, not least because some of the commitments were accepted by David Cameron in person when he visited Sri Lanka. Britain should be leading efforts to secure the international involvement in the reconciliation process which was previously agreed to, and maintain unrelenting pressure until the commitments made are fulfilled.”
Bob Blackman MP for Harrow East, Vice Chair of APPGT
“We honour those who lost their lives in the Civil War this Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day and shall do so every May 18th. Justice now for Tamils, and for the Sri Lankan government to be held accountable for their actions”.
Gareth Thomas MP
“As the Member of Parliament for Harrow West, with the largest Tamil community in the UK I have seen many cases of constituents directly affected by the terrible events that occurred during the conflict. I have spoken to countless Tamil constituents who lost relatives killed or injured in the fighting.
I have seen the scars of people tortured in police cells, heard the stories of those who fled from communities where their friends and neighbours had been raped or murdered in cold blood or who had land and property stolen from them by the military.
The demand for justice remains loud and clear. The scale of human rights abuses will never be forgotten. The demand for an international UN-led investigation remains as pressing now as it did 9 years ago and I will always, always, be a champion for action against those responsible for the abuses all of us know happened.”
Rt. Hon Joan Ryan MP for Enfield North, Vice Chair of APPGT
“My thoughts and best wishes are with you all as we commemorate the tragic events of Mullivaikal.9 years on from the end of Sri Lanka’s armed conflict, I share your deep concerns that the Sri Lankan Government has made no meaningful progress on truth, justice and reconciliation. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Unless the culture of impunity on the island is tackled, and there is a genuine reckoning with the country’s past, Sri Lanka will be unable to lay the foundations of a sustainable peace.
I can assure you that I will continue to support all efforts to ensure an enduring peace in Sri Lanka and the recognition of the Tamil people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.
Siobhain McDonagh, Member of Parliament for Mitcham and Morden, Vice Chair of APPGT
“Dear All, today we pause to mark the 9th anniversary of the massacre at Mullivaikal. We reflect and remember all those who died during Sri Lanka’s civil war. And we reaffirm our strong belief that only truth, justice and accountability will set Sri Lanka on a path to lasting peace. Each of you will be fully aware of the failure of the Sri Lankan Government to live up to its promises on justice and reconciliation. The Tamil community has valiantly brought the damning evidence of the Sri Lankan Government’s war crimes to the attention of the world. And yet, the overwhelming majority of the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government remain unachieved. None of the four key transitional justice mechanisms pledged have even been operationalised.”
Wes Streeting MP for Ilford North, Deputy Chair of APPGT
“The events of the final weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war were among the most bloody and barbaric. We have a responsibility to honour the memory of the deceased and the disappeared and to continue our quest for truth, accountability and reconciliation. Year after year I have travelled to Geneva to make sure that the international community holds Sri Lanka to account. They made a commitment to involve international judges and prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of war crimes committed during the civil war. Now they must deliver. It is to the eternal shame of the international community that we looked the other way while innocent people were subjected to unimaginable acts of violence and terror.
We owe it to you and to all the Tamil people never to look away again. As you gather in solemn and loving memory of those who are lost, as Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils and the Member of Parliament for Ilford North, I give you my word that I will work relentlessly to make sure that the commitments made to the international community by the Government of Sri Lanka are honoured.”
Rt Hon TOM BRAKE MP, Secretary of APPGT
“I am sorry I cannot join you today. However, like other MPs, both from my party, the Liberal Democrats, and other parties, I will continue to campaign for justice for the Tamil community.”
John Mann MP
“On this anniversary we send solidarity to the Tamil people in their fight for reconciliation and justice. Recognising the injustices and the bravery of the families of those missing, we call on the UK government and the UN to guarantee a full international inquiry, action to support the human rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka and justice for all the families and communities of the Tamil diaspora.
It is shameful that the UK is no longer leading the way in the fight for justice and we fall upon Boris Johnson to speak at the UN human rights council in Geneva to strengthen the powers of the UN to intervene in this tragedy. Today we stand in remembrance and solidarity”.
Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
“As we mark today’s tragic milestone, it’s hard to comprehend the suffering that the Tamil people went through during the Civil War. My thoughts and prayers are very much with all those who sadly lost their lives and also the friends and families who have been so badly impacted by this tragedy.
Although the Sri Lankan government has in recent years taken a few steps to improve the human rights situation, much more remains to be done for the country to fulfil its commitments made at the UNHRC in October 2015. I’m pleased that this remains a priority for the British Government and will continue to press its counterpart in Sri Lanka to fulfil its obligations.”
Following delivered speeches on stage during the remembrance day event.
Les Levidow, CAMPACC
Since the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000 anti-terror laws have helped the Government of Sri Lanka to portray any opposition as terrorist and to portray its own war crimes as counter-terrorism.
Likewise, the ‘terror’ stigma has been used to suppress political activity here, e.g. by prosecuting activists, generally intimidating Tamil groups and blocking venues for their public events, especially any event about Tamil self-determination. This political suppression was the main purpose of the legislation.
RT Hon Theresa Villiars MP for Chipping Barnet
Called on the authorities in Sri Lanka to deliver on there promises they made on accountability and to make sure the perpetrators are held responsible for the atrocities and make sure Sri Lanka complies with the Human rights resolution 30/1.
RT Hon Edward Davey MP
Called on the whole world to deal with the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka. He called on the international countries to pledge to force the Sri Lankan government to keep to the promises they have made. He said Sri Lankan government is not showing any inclination of accomplishing those promises. Now is the time for the British government working with EU to take away the GSP plus trade preferences. He was very sad when these trade preferences were given, and they should not have been given. He mentioned that we should recognise the geo politics in the region, specially Chinas growing influence in Sri Lanka and we need to talk to New Delhi, unless we talk to these powers in the region, we will not move the international governments.
RT Hon Paul Scully MP Chair of the APPGT
As parliamentarians we will work together to force the Sri Lankan government to stick to its promises it has made at the UNHRC. We must force the government to have a tribunal with international participation to make sure that the victims have confidence in the process. People have huge amount of uncertainty regarding the missing people, I met some of the mothers who have lost their sons. We at APPG T continue to work to martial the international community, to force the UK foreign minister to take Sri Lanka to the security council with the help of Canadian,
EU and American representatives at UNHRC.I will do everything I can in the years to come, so that those who lost their lives will get justice.
BTF calls upon the UK government to proactively campaign for the establishment of an international tribunal on Sri Lanka at the next UNHRC meeting in Geneva, as the extended time given to Sri Lanka for implementation will elapse in March 2019. It is very clear that Sri Lanka has no intention of compliance with the UNHRC resolution 30/1. It intends to default on all the promises it made. Before the international attention is diverted by Sri Lanka at the UNHRC, UK government should work with the Tamil diaspora organisations to keep Sri Lanka on the UNHRC agenda and initiate the necessary work to establish an international tribunal by escalating the noncompliance of resolution 30/1 by Sri Lanka to the security council.
BTF Media Coordinator
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